On Monday 23rd May, the Lay Dominicans of our province met the Master of the Order, fr. Gerard Timoner OP, at Blackfriars in Oxford. Fr. Gerard was in England to celebrate the Jubilee of the 800th anniversary of the arrival of the Dominicans in England, and he spent 2 hours with representatives from fraternities across the province.

We shared with fr. Gerard some of our views on the ways in which the laity preach, together with the work we have been doing to improve communication through our website, and the challenges of keeping in touch using technology during the restrictions of the last 2 years

Fr. Gerard reminded us that Pope Francis, in Praedicator Gratiae, his letter to the Order on the occasion of the Jubilee, named all the branches of the Dominican family, and that there are many types of preaching. Fra Angelico was a priest, but he is known for preaching through his art, not for liturgical preaching. In Spain there is a picture of Catherine of Siena preaching and the Pope listening. In our Order, all the roles are important and complementary, and therefore the Order has something to say to the church about clericalism. The church is looking for lay people to preach the Gospel, and formation will change us from disciples to missionaries.

Faith within the family is the beginning of a person’s search. Personal stories speak to the heart, and this is the preaching that speaks to people.

fr. Gerard Timoner OP

Fr. Gerard told the story of deaf children, who say their first words after receiving hearing aids. We cannot speak until we have heard, and that is why formation is so important. We need to listen to the Church, to the Lord, before we preach. The Order of Preachers has 389 saints and blesseds but is still promoting causes (including the Florentine mayor and Lay Dominican Giorgio La Pira) to show the world that the path a Dominican has taken is a path to holiness.

Fr. Alain Arnould OP, the Master’s Socius for Western Europe, explained how important the presence of Lay Dominicans is, when situations are fragile, and that the laity are important for the credibility of what we preach, particularly where clerical credibility has suffered. He also emphasized the importance of the International Dominican Youth Movement in how we grow together and listen to people’s questions.

Liturgical preaching is a tiny fraction of where the word is preached.

fr. Alain Arnould OP

Fr. Martin Ganeri OP, the Prior Provincial, added that society is fundamentally secularized, and the friars can get out of sync with society. A Lay Dominican presence is not an insignificant thing when there is no other Dominican presence.

The laity are able to read the signs of the times and preach to the rest of the Order about what the world is like.

fr. Martin Ganeri OP

Fr. Gerard said that Lay Dominicans are immersed in society and create a connection for the friars and sisters. He suggested that the office of Catechist is suitable to the Dominican vocation. We need to learn the language of the people if we are to preach to them, the language of the abandoned, the cynical and the young.

On the 4th June we joined the Master and the rest of the Dominican family at a Mass of celebration for the Jubilee of the Province.